Writer: Ty Templeton; Dan Slott
Artists: Rick Burchett(p), Terry Beatty(i), Heroic Age(c)
Batman Adventures is and always will be the best Batman book on the racks. How good is Batman Adventures? The creators did something unusual this year. They introduced a storyarc just like the continuity books. However unlike the misery of past storyarcs that DC has foisted on an unsuspecting reading public, the storyarc in Batman Adventures made sense, and each chapter had a beginning, a middle and an end.
This stoyarc had a real Batman Family. It was not the fake Batgirl, Azbat and fake Huntress. No. The creators needed no superfluous characters who had no reason to exist.
Batgirl plays a pivotal role in this final chapter of the storyarc. She displays intellectual prowess through Ty Templeton's writing rather than the brainpower one apparently receives from a pair of game gams. Isn't it a trifle chauvinistic to suggest that the only women who can think are the ones that had to overcome crippling by bad continuity? This Batgirl thinks and kicks. Hopefully, she'll have some cameos in Justice League Adventures.
Robin, who is an amalgam of Jason Todd and Tim Drake, makes an important contribution that plausibly is something Babs and Batman could have missed. The code required also echoes back to a classic Neal Adams Batman caper. Batman Adventures knows its history and is more than the continuity titles a descendent of the Bronze Age era of Batman exemplified by Denny O'Neil, Jim Aparo, Len Wein, Irv Novick, Steve Engelheart, Marshall Rogers, Gerry Conway and Don Newton.
The two members of the team do not undermine the star of the book. Mr. Templeton shows Batman in action on the very first pages and makes use of Batman's experience in the denouement. He puts Batman's vow to save lives in motion and reinforces his status as an arch-strategist and an adaptive genius.
All of the Batman Family behave like vigilantes. They steal evidence, trespass and destroy private property all in the pursuit of justice. In this sense Batman Adventures is the more subversive of than other titles from the alleged original DC universe and more in tune with the original themes of Bill Finger and Bob Kane. The storyarc needed no stunt on which to precariously hinge its chapters. The idea of a man who believes the law isn't enough prepared the thrust of the drama.
The finale in this issue reveals the answer to the question pecking at readers. How did the Penguin become the mayor of Gotham City? The motive makes sense. The conclusion satisfies and some of the fowl characterization surprises. The answer differs strongly from the motif found in Batman Returns, but the Penguin is no less a threat to the Dark Knight.
While peeling back the layers of the most successful superhero storyarc DC will ever likely have in one of their titles, the creative team also included back-up vignettes that sometimes tied in to the changes in characterization, subtly explained the shift in the Gotham climate or simply related a splendid stand-alone short.
Dan Slott explores what Batman means to Gotham City on an extremely personal level. That he surprises is just the typical added touch of intelligence one expects from the Adventureverse and makes each book more enjoyable to read because the story engages the gray cells.
Another distinction between the Adventureverse Batman titles and the continuity titles can be found in the consistency of artwork. Whether by the late, great Mike Parobeck, Ty Templeton, Tim Leavins or Rick Burchett and usually inked by Terry Beatty, the reader never had to puzzle out who was who. The specific design for the characters were mainstays and despite the change in artists did not differ except in subtle ways.
This technique of staying on model benefited not just the action as in the scene where Batman confronts the Penguin but also the visual characterization such as where Batman rubs his chin as he ponders the mystery. If you were to name the Batman artists of the twenty-first century Rick Burchett and Terry Beatty should be the names on the tips of your tongues. Never once need you question their skill. They have without accolades been illustrating the adventures of the bona fide Batman, Batgirl, Robin and Nightwing for longer than the hyped artist of the day. There will never be another book like Batman Adventures. Mourn the loss.
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